In film and TV, context is built into the main event, with the narrative responsibility going far beyond simply getting from point A to point B, but building an emotional connection between the audience and the characters in the story.
Sports are a bit different.
The emphasis of the game is often just the game, with the drama residing in the playing of it—a dunk, a home run, a touchdown, a goal. It’s usually enough to catch even the most casual of eyeballs.
But despite all the differences between sports and entertainment, it’s still the emotional connection and characters that turns sports fans into fanatics.
LeBron James and Maverick Carter know this. It’s why their media company Uninterrupted was founded on the idea of “More than an athlete,” that those playing these games are three-dimensional human beings with compelling stories to tell. By telling these stories, fans can only become more invested in the games and sports.
This is what the company’s latest work, created in partnership with sports streaming service Dazn, called 40 Days, a short docuseries that was made to tell the story and build hype for the light heavyweight title fight between Mexican star Canelo Alvarez and Russian champ Sergey Kovalev on November 2.
Carter, who’s an executive producer on the series along with LeBron James and LAFC soccer star Carlos Vela, says that boxing is the ultimate version of what Uninterrupted sees as the power of telling the story of athletes outside the ring or off the court. “Boxing is man versus man, woman versus woman, it’s one on one,” says Carter. “So the storylines are pretty singular. There’s no team, there’s no substitutes if the quarterback gets hurt. So there’s an amazing job to do as the promoters and storytellers of the fight. You have a job to figure out how you make this fight important aside from the 12 rounds. Those 12 rounds are important, but leading up to it, how do you compel people to really care? The way you do it is by telling the story of these two human beings who are about to get into the ring.”
For this fight, it’s about Canelo working to move up two weight classes to challenge the WBO light heavyweight champion Kovalev. In three, 10-minute episodes, viewers get a behind the scenes look at each fighter’s preparation, as well as commentary from Maverick Carter, DJ Khaled, Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, and comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias.
Given it’s a Dazn production and the company last year signed Alvarez to a reported $365 million deal for 11 fights over five years, the focus of the series tends to lean his way. It’s also the second 40 Days, following last April’s series chronicling Alvarez’s fight against Daniel Jacobs.
Original content like this serves a dual purpose, perfectly suited for both a sports broadcasting newcomer (Dazn) and a sport that’s lost a huge chunk of it cultural weight over the last 25 years. Do you even have a favorite boxer? Outside of hardcore fans, many of us would have a hard time even naming an active fighter. That’s exactly what a series like 40 Days aims to remedy. It’s marketing a single fight, but it’s also using these stories to start rebuilding the mythos of the sport.
“The history of boxing, going back to Jack Johnson, Ali, Sugar Ray, and all these boxers of the past who we love, they won fights but they also had stories that were much more interesting outside of the ring,” says Carter. “I think original content, most importantly, tells the athlete’s story, helps bring in a wider audience—an audience that cares about sports—and it really gives you something to care about the way sports so often do.”